Energy Management and Impact on Others, Part III

Positive energyNegative energy.  We’ve already discussed how they impact other people.  The quality of your energy, and your emotions for that matter, is infectious and influences others.  The quantity of your energy matters too.  The more you are energized, the more others will feel energized by you and will leave feeling upbeat.

You can also cultivate energy in others.  In her book, Energize Your Workplace, Jane Dutton discusses how high quality connections (HQC) between individuals can improve individual and workplace engagement and performance.  HQC consists of three parts:  trust, respectful engagement, and task enabling.  Though HQC is primarily aimed at the workplace, HQC likely can also facilitate and smooth personal relationships.  If you know what constitutes HQC you can at least do your part to implement HQC from your side of the relationship, and encourage the other to reciprocate and follow your lead.

You know what trust is.  While you cannot force someone else to trust you, you can set the right tone by being trustworthy and giving them the benefit of the doubt and your trust, without making them first earn it.  Trusting also means allowing yourself to be vulnerable and sharing of yourself.  In this case, trusting does not mean being foolish, but rather assuming the other to be dependable, competent, and deserving of inclusion and respect.  If they prove themselves to be otherwise, you can act accordingly.

Respectful engagement means that one is present (not distracted), genuine, listens effectively and communicates affirmation during interpersonal interactions.  In addition, respectful engagement includes supportive communication which means making requests rather than demands, being specific, and avoiding evaluation or judgment.

Though task enabling is probably more important at work, it also can help us have a personal life that runs smoothly.  For example, our family is a team. The more we act like a team, the more effective we will be at successfully navigating the needs of the family.  The more our family/team members help other members to learn what they need to know and nurturing them to help them grow, the more each family member will be competent and able to be successful.  In addition, we can help by designing tasks in a manner that increases the odds of team member success.  Allocating tasks based on our strengths, preference and availability is more likely to produce good results than say gender-based or traditional roles.

In addition to the above three components, Dutton also recommends a healthy dose of play to help build positive emotion, openness, creativity and team-building.  Every home and workplace will have a different context, so be creative as to how to make the tasks more enjoyable.  This is the hardest part of task-enabling for yours truly.  I tend to err much more on the work hard/serious side.  Maybe I’ll delegate play to someone else … but join in!

Energy Management and Impact on Others, Part II

Does anyone want their legacy be to leaving their corner of the world worse off because of their presence?  Perhaps some of us may believe that this will inevitably be our fate, particularly on a bad day.  But is that ever anyone’s intention?

I’ve heard people say that when they’re in a bad mood, they want everyone to feel it.  I guess this is the ultimate misery-loves-company philosophy.  Question to those of you who feel that way sometimes:  On a good or normal day, would you say that this is the impact you’d really like to have?  Especially as this mood may be more pervasive than you wish, is your goal to leave the world worse off because of your presence or bad mood?

Perhaps it is naïve of  me to believe that no one wants that type of legacy, bad moments or days notwithstanding.  I just don’t believe anyone, not even those you might regard as ‘evil’, strives for such a legacy.

To those who sometimes want to share their misery: consider that maybe that misery is  occurring more often than intended.  Given also that our energy, whether positive or negative, tends to similarly impact those around us, perhaps it is worth taking responsibility for our energy so that we do not unwittingly or regretfully detrimentally impact those around us.  Remember, our energy will impact others, even if we’re trying to mask it.

I have been guilty of being simultaneously unaware of my energy and oblivious to the impact on others even when I am trying to hide it.  Simply trying to control my reaction is not effective.  The only thing that works is to manage my underlying emotions and mood so they don’t swing wildly out of control.   It’s not an easy task, as you may know.  But being aware of my tendencies and the resulting impact on others is good motivation to try to improve.  For me, being aware of the types of situations that tend to upset me and knowing that my reaction is not always logical or proportional also helps me get those emotions back to baseline.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a work in progress and always will be.

So don’t be afraid to join or be among the ranks of those that are struggling to take full responsibility for the consequences of our actions and emotions.  Life isn’t supposed to be easy but there’s always room for growth and improvement.  Being perfect means there’s nowhere to go but down.  Instead, how about a legacy of growth and acceptance of self and others, just as we are? That would be something to be proud of.

Energy Management and Impact on Others, Part I


What are the unseen forces that connect us?

Even the question is evocative.  As an academic and scientist, we don’t like to deal with the unseen and unmeasurable.  If we can’t detect it, it doesn’t exist.  However, a subpopulation among us know that this energy/emotional field we invisibly project is real.  I’m not among this population so I have been one of the people denying its existence.  But I’ve seen people sense this energy, even in the apparent absence of visual or auditory cues.

At least I think I have.

OK so I’m not 100% convinced but I’m pretty sure about it.  For example, I think I’m a pretty savvy and self-aware person (haha) and feel like I do a good job hiding how I really feel when I think it’s appropriate to do so.  For example, I may get mad at something but I don’t necessarily want to share that until I’ve spent some time processing it.  (You can teach an old dog new tricks)

But no.  I’m not really hiding my anger because those folks with that radar can pick it up instantly even though I’ve said and done nothing, and have, in fact, made every attempt to mask my feelings.  Folks with the radar can sense the energy of a room before even entering it.  This, folks, is beyond my comprehension, though I haven’t completely discounted other possible cues such as observing the way we hold our bodies, clench our jaws, or the tone of the conversation.  We are experts at noticing such cues (“we” as in the collective “we,” since I’m not that great at it.)

This is not just an intellectual exercise debating the nature of the metaphysical.  This energy factor is important because that energy, whether manifested by our tone or body language, impacts other people.  I may not be able to notice other people’s energy effectively but I do notice mine.  It’s not just my emotion.  That energy includes the feeling in my chest that’s either a tightness or looseness.  When it’s tight, I’m keeping my energy to myself.  I tend to be more closed emotionally to others, and it’s easier for me to go into dominant/command mode.  When it’s loose, I’m sharing my energy with others in an open way and I’m more inclined to go into compassion and empathy mode.     I’m more open to another’s reality and receiving their energy.  The former makes me feel tense; the latter more relaxed and energized.

I believe that other people sense the presence of that energy.  When I’m in open mode, I tend to have more eye contact and smiles from strangers, and I’m more approachable in general.  When you are sharing your energy, others are attracted to interacting with you.   I never understood why students used to think I’m unapproachable as I always invited them to come talk to me with their questions but I believe I can now explain it by energy management.

I think that energy management has to do with presence.  To me, presence means “being present”, attending to the present moment and the person you’re with.  But it also is an important element of the command strength.  My command strength can be a real assh*le if I’m not managing it.  It comes across as a bully.  But by keeping my energy open, that command becomes “presence.”  I suspect this presence is also a sort of stage presence.  It’s a positive energy that draws the eye and attention.   Negative energy can also draw attention but in a morbid-curiosity manner.

So you see, energy management does matter.  If your life involves relationships and influencing people, then managing your energy effectively makes a difference in how you interact with others.  Even if you’re trying to mask it, others can tell whether your energy is kind, generous, positive, loving or angry, hostile, condescending or just generally an assh*le.  Who do you think they’re more likely to want to deal with?   Who are they going to want  to help or listen to?  You got it.  So pay attention and be present with your energy.  Try to be more intentional about managing it and see what happens.

Authentic Purpose

What are we here on Earth to do?  What is our purpose?  We each have a unique purpose that we each can sense inside us, even if we have not yet identified it.   That purpose is a little more vague than our personal mission because the path may lead us in so many different directions, many of which we cannot even imagine.  I believe this purpose is better left open-ended, and we should thus be also open to where it takes us.

I wrote about the uniqueness of our personal mission and our ensuing authentic purpose in recent blogs (Complexity of Life, part I and part II).  The difference between the two, at least as I see it, is that our personal mission is our global purpose in life.  This global purpose applies to both our personal and professional lives.  The theme of our mission, once we identify it, rings true to us once we identify it.  We see it as our personal truth that is highly specific and which we have known at some level much of our lives.   When and how we develop this mission is beyond my understanding at this point in time.

In contrast, our authentic purpose is what we do with that mission.  My mission is to use active love (being actively involved) to help others be the best possible versions of themselves.  I could do that from so many different vantage points:  stylist, coach, teacher, education designer or writer, counselor, nurse, etc.  So the way I direct my mission is also authentically mine and is reflected in my authentic purpose.

I say the purpose must be authentic, because if we’re approaching our mission from the needs, wants and desires of another, we’re simply trying to be someone we’re not (SWN) or inauthentic. Being SWN is exhausting and we are likely to set ourselves up for failure and dissatisfaction as we’re living our lives by someone else’s standards, values and strengths.

In contrast, living authentically tends to be energizing.  Add to that mix the pursuit of our passions, and then you have someone who is fired up and energized by their work.  I believe our authentic purpose is what Joseph Campbell calls our hero’s journey.  We set off to pursue our calling, fight monsters and demons along the way, but return victorious with the knowledge that was lost by our generation.

Since this area of authenticity and mission are on the edges of what is known in psychology,  I’m extrapolating somewhat based on the known literature and experience from my personal and shared journeys.  My own understand is still emerging, but I believe that many of us could benefit from identifying our mission and authentic purpose.  Not only am I enjoying my work and personal life more, but I am much more successful at what I’m doing now than what I was doing previously.  In addition, it has enhanced my spiritual journey in ways that I’m unable to describe.

What is your authentic purpose?  How did you find it?  What impact does it have on your life?  If you haven’t identified it, do you wish to?  Why or why not?

Coincidence and Synergy

  • You call your friend and she tells you she was just picking up the phone to call you
  • You were just thinking you need to find a new contractor when you find your brother’s best friend is just starting a contracting business
  • You find that you and your first love’s decades long marriages ended within a month of each other.   She lives a thousand miles away and you’ve been out of touch most of that time.
  • After being recently unemployed, you run into a long-lost former colleague in an airport, who then refers you to another colleague, who offers you a job.
  • Out of a class of 37, three students and one of the faculty ages 30-50 are getting married on the same weekend.   They live hundreds of miles apart from each other and the planning occurred unbeknownst to the others.

Do you believe in coincidences?  Most people I have talked to do not, but maybe that reflects more about who’ve I’ve been hanging out with than anything else.    It would not have been the first time that my opinions are strongly influenced by a biased group selection.

I’m asking the question because I don’t really know what to think about coincidences.  Sure, a coincidence or two and it’s no big deal but sometimes those coincidences just line up like tin soldiers and I start to wonder.   The above set of coincidences are mostly unrelated but I’ve noticed that sometimes coincidences can happen repeatedly in a single chain of events.

The scientist in me explains our perception of coincidence are simply tricks of the mind.  If we are looking for coincidences, we will find coincidences.  Just as if we were looking for red Volkswagon Beetles, we’ll start to notice them everywhere where previously they were just among the masses of rush hour traffic.

Humans also have a tendency to imagine order and meaning when it does not likely exist.  Faces in the clouds, an artful dance by a plastic bag in the wind, a nefarious intention in an offhand comment.  Man wishes to make order out of chaos, and one way to do that is to believe the events in our lives have meaning rather than are just random.

But still, when you do the actual math, sometimes the statistically impossible happens.   For example, the wedding example above refers to the class I attend in Pennsylvania.  Even accounting for the fact that the weekend of our Big Day is fairly soon after we graduate, the odds that this statistical improbability happened by random chance are pretty low.

I wrote a blog some time ago about the connectedness strength theme, and how the ability to understand how all things are interconnected is believed by many people to be a key ingredient in their ability to be successful.  Sometimes I feel the scientist in me is too skeptical and cynical, and that sometimes a greater openness to the mystery of the world is in order.  Fortunately, scientists are starting to study subjects like religion and spirituality that were previously viewed as off-limits.  Maybe soon we’ll start to have a better understanding of the unseen connections between us.

Complexity of life, Part II

I know we have a unique and authentic mission because I have been observing it almost every day.  I have been coaching members of the university community to help them find their personal mission.  That mission is clearly unique and central to that individual.  That person knows when the stated purpose resonates authentically, when it’s not quite right, or when it’s completely wrong.  When they touch upon their realization of their authentic personal mission, you can see the light inside them ignite, and they realize it is their personal truth.  Change one word, and the mission is wrong.  It just doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t ring true.  And as far as I can tell, each person’s purpose is as unique as their fingerprint.

As much as we like to distance ourselves from our biology, it is a fact that we are biological organisms somewhere in the midst of a vertical and horizontal ecological tapestry.  Our individual purpose and pathway could be as unique as the nucleotide molecule that plays different roles in the course of its existence, only to be degraded or synthesized into a different molecule all together. The nucleotide that ends up adjacent to DNA synthesis enzymes is going to get woven into its purpose rapidly and efficiently.  The nucleotide that hunts for its purpose in the wrong place will float aimlessly and ineffectively until it happens upon the right enzyme.  Those loner molecules that never find their role are more likely to be picked off and metabolically repurposed into a new identity.

I spent much of my life thinking I was part of a protein when I am actually a piece of DNA.  Not literally, of course.  But by failing to recognize my purpose, I have spent a lot of time hunting to make a contribution in the wrong part of the cell, or doing the wrong thing in the right part of the cell.  But strangely, my authentic purpose has always been lurking beneath the surface, whispering to me my whole life.  Now that I have a much better understanding of my purpose, I am often startled when I reflect upon my past and see the theme resonating back through time.

My purpose has always been about authenticity.  In the fights with my parents, in my essay for graduate school, in my speech at an Asian American Heritage Day event, in my own personal mission statement, in my capstone project for my masters degree, and my realization of my calling (authentic purpose),  I have been drawn to this topic my whole life.  It has been only relatively recently has my own purpose dawned on me, and lit me up like a Christmas tree.  Now I know that I am here to help others find and live their authentic purpose.  And like the rest of you, I’m here to live mine.

What is your role on this planet?  Do you have a sense of what you’re here to do?  Have you identified it, or is it lurking just past your grasp?  Let me help.

The Complexity of Life, Part 1


Have you thought about the complexity of life lately?  Even the word ‘life’ is complex.  Do I mean your individual life, our collective life, the way our bodies operate to enable our existence?  Yes.

I’ve been thinking about this topic since talking to a student about the beauty of science.  Science, after all, is here to help us to understand the complexity of life and our universe.  If you bore down on the processes that enable life on earth, one goes from the macro – living organisms such as humans, plants, and animals – to the micro – tissues/organs, cells, molecules, and atoms.    Each micro component is comprised of complicated matrices of the components from the contributing subunits (cells are comprised of molecules which are comprised of atoms).  Even atoms consist of subatomic particles, and then we are once again into domains where the complexity of forces and interactions of those subatomic particles and forces are largely outside our comprehension.

In addition to the orchestra of interactions occurring at each level, each of those elements must also be dynamic in order for the unit to be static.  For example, for a cell to continue to function as a cell, it must take up nutrients, create waste, continue to synthesize new components and degrade others.  In other words, to remain constant, the cell must be dynamic.  In this manner, nature balances birth, growth, and stasis by a combination of birth, growth and stasis in a beautiful symphony of events.   The same dynamic seems to be at play at every level, from the sub-atomic on up through the organism level.

Now let’s consider the super-macro level (I’m making up terms here, can you tell?)  If we dial upwards from our proximity of human-on-earth, we humans further organize ourselves into complex systems.  We are part of a family unit which is part of the community, which is part of a nation and the human species which inhabits the earth which is part of the solar system which is part of the galaxy and then the universe (whew).  Like the micro level, the macro level contains its own balance of actions, interactions, birth, growth and stasis in a dynamic but complex equilibrium.  The role of the earth is to be part of the solar system and revolve around the sun.  The role of the nucleotide is to be a part of DNA or a catalyst for reactions.  Each has a unique and defined role within the matrix within which it resides.

We humans are no different.  We play a role in the ecosystem of the planet and on up through the macro levels and on down through the micro levels.  Whether the essence of our existence is defined by an unseen hand or biological accident is a question for the philosophers and religious leaders of our past, present and future, not for someone like me.   However, just like the enzyme catalyzes reactions and ligands bind receptors, I believe that each of us have a specific purpose we are meant to fulfill during our brief time on the planet.  Whether this is driven by the unseen hand or a biological accident is again not for me to say.


Next blog:  our unique role.

Life Lessons from Second Wedding

I have been separated/divorced for almost four years now and I honestly did not think I would ever remarry.  I also believed I would never return to school.  Lesson #1:  Never say never.

I guess you can say that I have a renewed sense of optimism, an interest in evolving and adapting, and a willingness to explore areas that were previously closed to me.  In hindsight, I believe I was pretty closed down and didn’t know it.  This brings me to Lesson #2:  we can’t know what we don’t know (profound, I know).   It seems to be one of those cruel ironies about oneself:  if you’re closed down you don’t know you’re closed down, nor are you likely to want to hear it from others.   Other truisms of this nature:  If you have a blind spot, you can’t see your blind spot.   If you’re humble, you won’t ever believe you’re humble.  Strangely, I enjoy the mystery that we are to ourselves.  It lends a sense of discovery of the person we know better than anyone!  That very observation means that we should not be too wedded to who we believe we are.  We can never really know ourselves 100% and that is, in many ways, a good thing.  Therefore, being willing to alter your self-perception can be a powerful growth opportunity.

Lesson #3:   we can never know or control our future.  Though I have spent many, many years trying to control my present and future, I know now that such efforts are futile and actually counter-productive.  I have enough ego to need to feel like a smart and competent person, but my imagination is nowhere near as good as reality often actually turns out to be.  Getting remarried at my age after believing it would never happen is the perfect example of my inability to imagine something really amazing.  Another truism:  not trying to control one’s future actually results in a better outcome.  If I had tried to enact the I’m-not-remarrying future, then I would have missed the opportunity to deepen and formalize our amazing relationship.  Letting go of control means being more adaptable and responsive to one’s reality.  Doesn’t that make sense?

Speaking of control, that brings us to Lesson #4:  I can’t please everyone.  Nor should I try.  So this wedding is as minimalist as it gets without actually just eloping.  We still managed to upset someone in the process, and possibly untold number of others. I have given up trying to live my life to please others while sacrificing my own peace of mind or authenticity.  Frankly, I’m not that good at knowing what others want/expect, so I’m going to upset them either way.   Or I’m not.  I think people at this stage of life don’t tend to personalize decisions as much as they did when we were in our 20’s.  Thank goodness.

So thank you world and universe for helping me learn these important lessons, at last.  I don’t regret making the mistakes and missteps that I have made over the last half century.  Lesson #Final:  those mistakes have made me wiser.   Those lessons have also imparted into me a passion and desire to share that hard-earned wisdom with others so that they may learn from my mistakes.  Go forth in peace, Namaste.

(I hope I look this pretty on my wedding day!) Photo credit:

(I hope I look this pretty on my wedding day!) Photo credit:

Authentic Purpose

Why are you here?

This is neither an existential question, nor an accusation that you’re in the wrong place.  Rather, I’m asking what unique imprint you are here to make on your corner of the world.

I think this is a tough question for most people to answer unless they have taken the time to really consider this.  If you’ve already figured this out, then you’re likely to be able to answer quickly and with conviction.    If you’ve done this exercise in a manner that reflects what you think others want you to do or believe, your response may lack passion or certainty.  At my age I wouldn’t even be able to remember what I’m supposed to say if my mission were not my own.

I’ve had the honor of working through this process with a few people now and I’ve come to the conclusion that most people have an authentic purpose, but it takes some effort to elicit it.  It’s in there somewhere.  It’s unique to that person, since everyone’s mission sounds different.  Each person, upon discovery, seemed to feel that when the mission was articulated ‘just right’, it rang true to them.   Each mission also applied to their whole life, not just their personal or professional life.  For the mission to be authentic, it must apply to that person in all their usual contexts and roles.

So far, each mission connected that person to the service of humanity in some manner.  I don’t suppose that will necessarily be true for everyone, as some people’s mission might be to save the dolphin or a rare tree, but there may still be an element of service to humanity inherent in those goals as well.

Why does the authentic purpose matter?  To have well-being and flourish, according to positive psychology, we need to live a virtuous life.  But a virtuous life with no purpose, or the wrong purpose, will not help us feel very fulfilled.  I believe our authentic purpose is essential to help guide us to life satisfaction and success.  Our authentic purpose fills our cup, energizes us, and provides direction to our lives.

My authentic purpose is to use active love (being involved and doing the right thing for people) to help others become the best possible versions of themselves.  One way I express my mission is by writing this blog each week.  My mission has given me the fuel to have continued this blog for over 200 entries over a 14 month period, and to return to school full time on top of my day job.   It’s driving my personal and professional life, and I feel like I’m finally living my life authentically and in service of what I’m here to do.

What is your authentic purpose and how do you direct that mission?  If you haven’t identified it yet, shouldn’t you?